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I love Asian cooking, but my doctor wants me on a low-sodium diet. Unfortunately, even the "lower-sodium" or "reduced sodium" versions of sauces (soy, tamari, etc.) are extremely high in sodium. Is there any alternative that can replicate the flavor of these sauces without the heavy dose of sodium?

  • @EmmyS I've deleted the comments, as we do try to stay away from health topics. I will however note that we do generally think it's fine to comment and point out possible misconceptions, because we do get a lot of people asking questions with a nutritional basis so wildly misguided we feel it will mislead future readers. – Cascabel Sep 20 '13 at 21:02
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    Use less salt in other parts of the dish? Salty flavor is salty flavor, and the salt balance of a dish is hard to mess with, unless you go the potassium chloride route. – rackandboneman Apr 3 '17 at 8:46

11 Answers 11

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Unfortunately, the sodium chloride salt is a requirement for the fungus and brewing process which goes into making soy sauce. You are extremely unlikely to find a much lower-salt soy sauce; however, experiment with vietnamese cuisine which uses more chili and less soy.

If you can tolerate some sodium, this is the lowest sodium soy sauce I can find: Kikkoman less salt soy sauce. It has 3.4g sodium per 100ml, which gives 170mg per 5ml tsp, around 6% per tsp or 18% per 15ml tablespoon. (These percentages are based on the US and UK sodium recommendation of 2400mg per day, or 6000mg of salt.)

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I would recommend trying Bragg's Liquid Aminos. The sodium content is 6% daily allowance for a 1/2 tsp amount. It won't work if used measure measure, though, compared with San-J's reduced sodium tamari at 29% for 1 TBS or Kikkoman's Less Sodium Soy Sauce at 24% for 1 TBS. (Bragg's Liquid Aminos would top them at 36%.) If it can be used successfully in smaller increments (a possibility given its concentrated nature), it would be a useful replacement.

I recommend the Bragg's brand because I have used it and find it satisfactory, though for its own merit, not as a soy sauce substitute. I haven't used any other liquid amino acid product to compare it with. It won't give you exactly soy sauce flavor, but it has sufficient body to be a useful substitute particularly in cooking.

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    Please forgive me if my math is wrong, but wouldn't 6% for 1/2 tsp work out to 36% for 1 TSP? (3 tea spoons per table spoon, 6% in 1/2 tea spoon * 2 * 3 teaspoons / table spoon = 36%/tablespoon) – shufler Aug 25 '12 at 20:07
  • Oh, you're right! Rushed my math on that one. Tsk. Thanks! – Fisher Aug 25 '12 at 20:48
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Short answer, no. But you can look at other ingredients in a stir-fry and ramp up the flavor there:

for the sour ingredients (vinegar lemon juice) try Shaanxi black vinegar which has a robust dark flavor

Few drops more toasted sesame oil to replace other mild frying oil

broth made with shitake instead of milder chicken/veg stock

dash of aged Shaoxing wine (drinkable rather than cooking variety best) adds a brewed dimension

Just some of the ways to add that savory brown something missing without soy

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"Tangle extract" from kombu (tangle) seaweed, is used in Japanese cuisine to potentiate the effect of monosodium glutamate - that can make a big reduction in the sodium intake. Whatever a recipe calls for in the way of MSG, use a tiny pinch and a good dose of kombu to get the same effect.

More info here.

  • I'm not using MSG, so I'm not sure this replacement will really have the effect I'm looking for, but I'll consider it. – EmmyS Aug 27 '12 at 14:54
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    Kombu extract contains naturally occurring glutamates which function similarly to MSG in food. You don't need to add MSG separately to get the effect. – SourDoh Sep 18 '13 at 20:57
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Yes you can look into using molasses as a substitute combined with rice-wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and even balsamic vinegar.

Recipe

2 tablespoons reduced sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons molasses
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Combine all the ingredients. At this point, you can either a) use the sauce as is, leaving for an hour to give the flavors a chance to blend, or b) for a thicker, richer sauce, boil the liquid until it is reduced by half, about 3 tablespoons.

  2. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Use the sauce within 3 - 4 days.

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I buy the lowest sodium content soya sauce I can find. I then mix the sauce 50 50 with distilled water. The distilled water has no flavours to compete with the diluted soya sauce. For fish and oyster sauces I buy the vegetarian types which are lower in sodium. For the fish sauce I dilute it about 25% with distilled water.

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"Chinatown" brand dark soy sauce, a product made in Jamaica, has only 145 mg of sodium per 15 mL. So it's lower in sodium than any other soy sauce anyone has mentioned so far.

You can order some from <http://healthyheartmarket.com/chinatownsoysauce.aspx>.

Chowhound poster "bailey2012" likes it.

You can order other reduced-sodium soy sauces from <http://healthyheartmarket.com/lowsodiumsoysauce.aspx>.

I have never tasted any of the products mentioned in this post. If you try one, please click "improve this answer" or "add comment", then add your review.

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"Chinatown" soy sauce from healthyheartmarket is 145 mg. sodium per Tbs. The lowest I could find. I use it a LOT! Try it.

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Sorry, but sodium is high in most East Asian sauces. Most Asian cooking sauces (e.g. soy sauce, fish sauce, dashi) are treasured for their savoriness, which comes from (sodium salts of) amino acids; that's why lots of Asian people have high blood pressure.

There is low sodium soy sauce (as mentioned above), but even that is still quite high in sodium content. You can find low-salt dashi for Japanese cuisine, however, and that should have less sodium than soy sauce. You could also make your own low-sodium dashi, by soaking your kombu in water for a night and also by not using too much Bonito flakes (which are high in sodium). Finally, try not adding any additional salt any of your dishes, and you should be fine.

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Coconut Secret Organic Raw Coconut Aminos is a pretty well rated soy sauce alternative. Note that the Amazon reviews say this is sweeter than soy sauce, as you can see from the nutrition facts(about 10 times the sugar of soy sauce), but, people seem pretty happy with adding this sauce into stews and soups. It's even cheaper at Trader Joe's near me, so you might have a grocery store nearby that sells Coconut Aminos. I tried this one and it tastes like a combination of soy sauce, teriyaki, and vinegar. It has much lower sodium, so I'm happy with it so far.

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There are vegetarian alternatives coming in at 360-380 mg of sodium per serving available on Amazon but I use them in 1/2 potions as adding a fish and oyster sauce together still come to 1/2 0f daily allowance for heart patients.

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